Handmade Eyelashes

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By the beauty myth, I mean the idea that for a black woman to be considered beautiful, she must wear fake hair. These days, the trend is Brazilian hair. Past fads have included Russian, Indian and Peruvian hair. And for those who cannot afford human hair, there is always the synthetic option. No matter the choice, as long as a black woman is wearing fake hair that has either been glued or sewn onto her own hair, she passes the beauty yardstick.

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Aside from the fake hair, the beauty myth also says that long acrylic nails and long fake eyelashes are a must. And when I say long, I mean long. For both nails and eyelashes. Some even go as far as having long toenails!

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As if all this is not bad enough, some black women (and surprisingly some black men too) have fallen for the beauty myth that the lighter the skin, the more beautiful the person. To get this light skin they so desire, dark-skinned people bleach their skin with dangerous chemicals that are known to cause cancer. With all this fakery and skin bleaching, today’s black woman is looking far from black! And this concerns me. You see, each race was created with our own unique features. And one of our features as black people is our kind of hair. The black race is the only one whose hair grows upwards. If we want our hair to flow down naturally, we can plait, twist or lock it. Another option is to hotcomb it.

Otherwise, the only way we can get our hair to flow down is by chemically straightening it. Incidentally, the chemicals in hair relaxers have also been known to be the cause of cancer in some black women. With regards to our skin colour we come in all shades of black. Whilst some of us are very dark-skinned others are very light-skinned, not forgetting the countless shades in-between. Despite this and for a very long time, black people have been made to feel having light skin and fine straight hair will make them more attractive and also be considered more appropriate to fit into the workplace.

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When I talk about skin bleaching I do not face much opposition. At least not as much as I face when I tackle the issue of Handmade Eyelashes. It seems women who wear fake hair easily get offended when this topic comes up for discussion. Yet if you ask me, I would say skin bleaching and wearing fake hair are one and the same disease. Because the reason people do both is the same – they either hate their hair and/or skin or feel they will not be accepted unless they change them. Every time I talk about natural hair, women who wear weaves get up in arms. They take my campaign to encourage women to wear their natural hair as a personal attack. Yet this is not the case. They go on the defensive and there are two phrases I hear time and time again: “I am not my hair” and various opinions that say “It’s my choice to wear a hair weave”.

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Sometimes they give me the lame excuse of natural hair being too hard to manage. So what does “I am not my hair” mean? We can look at this in two ways. Literally as in meaning, I am not the hair I am wearing. In which case I have to agree. Because as a black woman, if you are wearing Brazilian, Indian, Russian, Peruvian or synthetic hair, then of course you are not your hair. Unless you are a black Brazilian for example, Brazilian hair is for Brazilians, Indian hair for Indians, Peruvian hair for Peruvians and kinky/nappy for black people worldwide. Whether born in Africa, Europe, America, Asia or any other part of the world, all black people are born with African hair. Our hair comes in all forms of kink. From the soft manageable type to the very hard tough type that makes you cry as you comb it.

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That is our hair. So when a black woman tells me she is not her hair, I think, well actually you are. And this is the second way I want to reflect on this issue. Of course a black woman is her hair. Just as her teeth, blood, sweat, bones etc are part of her, so is her hair. A black woman’s hair is part of her DNA. Hair has been used to identify people. For example, hair found at a crime scene can be traced back to the perpetrator who has committed the crime. So how anyone can say they are not their hair mystifies me. The hairstyle a person chooses to wear says a lot about them. For example, a conservative person would never wear a Mohican, whilst a person with a flamboyant personality may not only wear a Mohican but dye it an outrageous colour. Just by seeing this, you decipher something about the person. So, again, people who state “I am not my hair” really mystify me. But try as I might to get this point over to black women who weave, they just never seem to get it. Then there is the issue of choice. Yes, I totally agree that as human beings, we have the right to make our own choices in life.

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However, I also believe sometimes, the choices we as individuals make, have to take into account the effect our choices have on others. And I wish women who weave would bear in mind how their choice affects all black women. You see, we live in a world in which we are bombarded with the image of a beautiful woman being one who is European with long hair. For the black woman to be considered beautiful she too must look like her European version. Hence the weaving of Handmade Eyelashes. And the bleaching of the skin. Aside from the beauty aspect, there is also this notion that for a black woman to be accepted, both in the workplace and socially she must conform to this look.

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And that is what is happening. Black women have been so brainwashed, they have accepted and conformed to this image imposed on them. Today, for a black woman to wear natural hair, she is considered Afrocentric, radical, a rebel, or controversial. Wearing Natural Eyelashes is now normal for the black woman, whilst wearing her own natural hair is not the accepted norm. Does this make any sense?

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I  might not be so anti-weave if this were not the case. But to tell me, as a black woman, that for me to get ahead, to be accepted and to be considered beautiful I have to weave the hair of other races is something I will never buy into. And each time a black woman weaves, she makes it harder for those who choose to be natural. That is how their choice affects others. You see, by conforming, the black woman is agreeing that “yes indeed, her hair is ugly”. She is agreeing that with natural hair she will not fit into society. Yet this is a fallacy. A black woman with natural hair can still teach. She can still drive a bus. She can be a doctor, a dancer, a friend, a mother, a wife, etc.

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Everything the black woman is doing now, she can still do with her natural hair. But because we do not see this, black women no longer believe it. The black woman now believes she looks much better with her “ugly” hair hidden under a weave from the head of a Brazilian, Peruvian, Indian or Russian woman. I wonder if black women ask themselves how real this human hair is? Because if you calculate the amount of hair black women buy, you have to ask if there are enough women with hair to cater for these numbers?

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Just recently, on 3 September, Sheryl Underwood, an African-American TV presenter, faced a backlash when she showed disgust at the idea of afro-hair. The topic was former model Heidi Klum keeping her son’s hair as a keepsake. Amidst laughter, Underwood said: “Why would you save afro-hair? You can’t weave that afro hair.

You never see us at the hair place saying ‘Look here, what I need is this curly nappy weave’. That just seems nasty.” When her white co-host turned around and said she also kept her son’s hair, Sheryl Underwood, still laughing. replied “which is probably some long silky stuff’’. This followed by a flick of her long wavy weave.

You see, this is a typical example of a black woman who has been so brainwashed that she does not even know what she is saying. For a black woman, a well-known TV presenter at that, to sit on her own show, with her white co-hosts and disrespect her own hair like that is deep.

If this is not hatred of your own hair, then what is? And to hate your own hair is I think a serious disease. Because deep down inside there must be something wrong with the woman that looks in the mirror and hates what stares back at her. Just like the anorexic person hates their body, so too is the hatred of one’s own hair and skin an illness.

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And maybe it’s time we started talking about it as such. Maybe then black women will wake up and ask themselves, what really is going on? But hey, these are just the reflections of an ordinary African woman.

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E-mail: moune@miislashes.com

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